Why are children of Hackney being short-changed?

15th September 1995 at 01:00
As far as most black and working-class children and their parents in Hackney were concerned, Hackney Downs school was not just dying - it was dead. Mark Lushington of the Hackney Teachers Association (Bad managing, TES September 1) really makes a case for interment rather than revival.

The school was failing the children.

The Department for Education and Employment news bulletin dated July 13, 1995 noted that despite some progress GCSE results were well below national and local levels, lesson standards were inconsistent, pupil attendance was poor, many pupils had an unsatisfactory attitude to work and enrolment was below 250.

The school had been well supported by the local authority. It had a staff-pupil ratio of 1:9, half the borough average. It had had a disproportionate share of the borough's advisory and support services, thus depriving the other schools of their fair share. Operating at only a quarter of its enrolment capacity, the school again diverted funds from other schools in the borough in order to remain viable.

It was not the decision to close the school that led to under-enrolment - children and parents were voting with their feet because they found the school to be failing. The present head herself reported that the most able children were being taken away from the school by their parents.

If I were part of a school which had a better staff: pupil ratio than any public school, I would expect it to be producing better than average all-round results, even if it was located in any inner-city area in Britain. Every child there should have been getting at least five top GCSEs along with opportunities for all-round social and cultural development.

If Mark Lushington is seriously committed to "the local and democratically accountable management of schools", he will himself stop playing "petty politics" and get down to confronting the real issue , namely the failure of a well-resourced school to attract a full enrolment of students.

At the same time he might want to ask why so many black and working-class children are being short-changed elsewhere in the borough. Why, as he states, do 30 per cent of the borough's 11-year-olds seek their secondary education outside the borough?

R A GERMAN Advice, Support Representation Services 41 Nightingale Road Hampton Middlesex.

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